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Open Access Research article

The BTB/POZ zinc finger protein Broad-Z3 promotes dendritic outgrowth during metamorphic remodeling of the peripheral stretch receptor dbd

Janet A Scott12, Darren W Williams13 and James W Truman12*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Biology, Box 351800, University of Washington, Seattle, WA 98195, USA

2 Janelia Farm Research Campus, Howard Hughes Medical Institute, 19700 Helix Drive, Ashburn, VA 20147, USA

3 MRC Centre for Developmental Neurobiology, King's College London, Guy's Hospital Campus, London SE1 1UL, UK

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Neural Development 2011, 6:39  doi:10.1186/1749-8104-6-39

Published: 12 December 2011



Various members of the family of BTB/POZ zinc-finger transcription factors influence patterns of dendritic branching. One such member, Broad, is notable because its BrZ3 isoform is widely expressed in Drosophila in immature neurons around the time of arbor outgrowth. We used the metamorphic remodeling of an identified sensory neuron, the dorsal bipolar dendrite sensory neuron (dbd), to examine the effects of BrZ3 expression on the extent and pattern of dendrite growth during metamorphosis.


Using live imaging of dbd in Drosophila pupae, we followed its normal development during metamorphosis and the effect of ectopic expression of BrZ3 on this development. After migration of its cell body, dbd extends a growth-cone that grows between two muscle bands followed by branching and turning back on itself to form a compact dendritic bundle. The ectopic expression of the BrZ3 isoform, using the GAL4/UAS system, caused dbd's dendritic tree to transform from its normal, compact, fasciculated form into a comb-like arbor that spread over on the body wall. Time-lapse analysis revealed that the expression of BrZ3 caused the premature extension of the primary dendrite onto immature myoblasts, ectopic growth past the muscle target region, and subsequent elaboration onto the epidermis. To control the timing of expression of BrZ3, we used a temperature-sensitive GAL80 mutant. When BrZ3 expression was delayed until after the extension of the primary dendrite, then a normal arbor was formed. By contrast, when BrZ3 expression was confined to only the early outgrowth phase, then ectopic arbors were subsequently formed and maintained on the epidermis despite the subsequent absence of BrZ3.


The adult arbor of dbd is a highly branched arbor whose branches self-fasciculate to form a compact dendritic bundle. The ectopic expression of BrZ3 in this cell causes a premature extension of its growth-cone, resulting in dendrites that extend beyond their normal muscle substrate and onto the epidermis, where they form a comb-shaped, ectopic arbor. Our quantitative data suggest that new ectopic arbor represents an 'unpacking' of the normally fasciculated arbor onto the epidermis. These data suggest that the nature of their local environment can change dendrite behavior from self-adhesion to self-avoidance.